Suzy Bales inspired me to truly make my current garden one of four seasons and to plant gardens around our home on all four sides. (I still consider it a work in progress, but it’s getting there.) The books she wrote titled Down to Earth Gardener and The Garden in Winter have truly guided me in my current garden to that end. They are lovely books that you can find quite reasonably priced new and used on Amazon.com. Mrs. Bales sadly passed away a year ago this time, but you can still benefit from her knowledge through her books.
David Culp is the author of The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage. You can also find his book easily on Amazon.com. He is the one that made me see the beauty of layering your garden. It is something that I have always sort of fidfled with, but his book took it to a whole new level.
I love my gardening books as much as my cookbooks.
I have been collecting vintage gardening books since I was about 19. They are well loved and well used and much like my cookbooks, I do not lend them out. I totally encourage people to look for vintage gardening books, much like vintage cookbooks they often contain basic, time honored traditions that can get lost in translation in the Internet age.
Long before there was the Internet, Facebook, or Pinterest you relied on your own research. You poured through gardening books, you went on garden tours, you belonged to a local gardening club.
I have always been a rabid gardener, and I love to learn about gardens. I discovered years ago quite by accident but every time you went to a garage sale or a rummage sale or thrift shop a lot of the books that people got rid of were gardening books and cookbooks. And many of both kinds of books were as pretty to look at as they were practical for the information contained within them.
To an extent while I am a modern woman I am also an old fashioned woman. I love what people used to call the “home arts” – or making your house a home , creating your garden, decorating your home yourself, and cooking.
Some of the gardening books I have are quite old. And a lot of the ones I have are books of actual gardens, a lot of which no longer exist due to development and progress. Families die off, properties are sold. It is a sad fact of life. Not every person moving into a house wants to garden. And sometimes depending on where something is located, the property and the gardens don’t survive. Often whomever acquires the property will give people permission to take plants, or buy them from them.
That’s how I ended up with really old hellebores years ago.
There were a pair of old Victorian houses near the Rosemont, PA train station which had been run down apartments for years and years and finally when they were totally decrepit they were sold to a developer. I contacted the developer before they razed the houses for their condominium project. For years in spite of watching these two once very cool Victorians deteriorate, I was fascinated by these lovely hellebores that I have never seen anyplace else to this day. The developer let me take a bucketful of the hellebores. And although the gardens were quite overgrown by this point there were still some remnants of the design left and that was also valuable to check out and commit to my memory for future gardens.
I still look at the photos of these gardens in my books, captured and frozen in time, and the majority of the photos are black and white. They also inspire me. The gardens of yesterday that only live in photos inside an old book.
These gardens that live only in photos of old books can so spark the imagination if you let them. They are to me as valuable as some people find the photos of gardens on Pinterest today.
Gardening is truly an art form. And how your garden looks is entirely personal. You literally get out of your garden what you put into it and as long as your garden make you happy that is what is important.
Look for garden books you like new and old and let them inspire you in your garden. Good sources for gardening books, and even cookbooks are (again) locally at a garage or rummage sale, at a resale shop or used bookstore. If you want to go online, check out both Amazon and eBay. Locally, I have also found many fabulous gardening books at Jenkins Arboretum.
I also love book swaps – if you are finished with the book swap it to a friend for another book. A gardening book swap is also a great excuse for gardeners to get together!
I do not pretend to know everything. I am constantly learning. I think gardening is good for the soul and head in part because if you garden, you are always learning.
I have beds on all four sides of our house. The philosophy is simple: I want flowers everywhere. I am going for four seasons of interest and the late Suzy Bales (who was amazing gardener and garden writer who sadly passed away last spring) inspired me to that. She is not the only gardener or garden writer who has inspired me over te years, but she will always be one of my favorites because what she wrote about speaks to me still.
My current garden is pieces of every garden I have ever had, combined with elements I have admired in other gardens. I draw a lot of inspiration from English and Irish cottage gardens, truthfully.
You get out of your garden what you put into it. A good garden is the result of trial and error, and what defines a good garden is simple: it makes YOU happy.
For me personally, given the knee injury I have been dealing with for several weeks at this point, this will be the year that tests my garden. But the up shot is I have done basically the majority of the planting, so maintenance will be the key. And hopefully I can find help for that until I am healed.
When you are putting your own garden together, it’s kind of like decorating your house – you draw inspiration from lots of places. Make a garden inspiration board on Pinterest- Pinterest is loaded with gardening stuff! I actually love using Pinterest for garden related things – it is so easy to create a virtual cork board of ideas.
In part that is why I created a gardening group and write about gardening is I believe gardeners inspire each other. And somewhere along the way when you least expect it, you develop your own gardening style.
My gardening style includes garden elements – bird baths, a stone path to dress up a hard to make look pretty area, seating areas, and so on. I also love the idea of creating “nooks”.
I love color and texture and how plants “fit” together. I love that you can plant almost anything in a pot, so it is not just about the garden beds. I love the smells and sounds of the garden and how nature rewards you when you plant.
Gardening is art, and trust me everyone has it in them to create their own artistic oasis.
At the end of February into the first days of March I suffered a knee injury .
I have to be honest, it has been awful, the pain debilitating to say the least.
I am sure I will get fixed up, we are lucky that orthopedic medicine has come a long way but lordy, to not be able to walk and do everyday things sure puts it all into perspective.
Usually about now I have lots of gardening posts, now you know why I haven’t just yet. But I will! It is just going to take a while….
In the meantime— please feel free to share your gardening tales with me so I can live vicariously through the gardens of my readers!
Dear Ryan Homes,
Please pardon me while I barf all over your saccharine sweet ridiculous glossy postcard you mailed me today. My apologies, truly, part of it is because I am sick and part of it is because, well, I simply can’t stomach anymore developer drivel.
Who are you to judge the living I “deserve”? I live quite nicely in Chester County. I have an actual home that isn’t made of plastic and plywood.
Why on earth would you think I wanted the urban Stepford plasticness of a non-organic fake neighborhood next to a highway? Especially because I live in a real neighborhood with real people?
I know, I know you want to sell everyone on the plastic houses that would be so lovely next to the elite blue lagoon of the old quarry lake. You know the one that no one has sufficiently fenced around yet?
The East Whiteland supervisors and staff like the director of building and planning are salivating and counting the ratables before they are hatched completely ….I get that. But it doesn’t necessarily mean build it and they will come. Of course they might all come and then it’s going to be like part of Chester County has turned into King of Prussia West. Or Bensalem, pick your development.
Your “lake views” are as fake as the architecture you are touting here. That isn’t an actual lake it’s a toxic body of water left over from the days of quarries. If you were smart you would have fenced that in properly by now, but I predict it will take something awful happening before you actually do – presuming you guys own that since I don’t know who actually owns it.
As far as I’m concerned everything being built over at Atwater is just developer blight on the horizon and density that we aren’t going to be able to handle in a few years. And the schools certainly will bear the brunt of this and municipal and other services as well. And the roads are already groaning.
But hey like everyone else’s development plans, it’s like all of yours exist in a tiny bubble with a green Elysian field surrounding it…. And in this case also bordering an unnaturally blue, toxic “lake”.
I’m sure by now you’re sorry I am on your mailing list. Trust me the feeling is mutual.
Just me, mocking bad developments proudly for decades.